2018-2019 School Year Tests Resilience Of The System

Jun 30, 2019

The 2018-2019 school year saw allegations of cheating in college admissions in the "Operation Varsity Blues" case, while rising tuition costs and student debt levels have the attention of several 2020 presidential hopefuls. In this episode of the KUT podcast "Higher Ed," KUT's Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss the state of higher education in 2019.

Ed acknowledges the many ways 2018-2019 was a difficult school year. He says cost is always a concern and has more recently called into question the viability of the higher education business model.

"Is this industry as it is currently crafted a sustainable and viable thing?" Ed asks. "We know through the news over the past year the answer is no because we have seen many schools, some of them with high profile names, that have announced that they're not going to be taking any more students and they're going to close up."

Ed says that business model has always seemed like a scary investment for many families because the costs are high and the results are not immediate.

"We're talking about future value. We're talking about future opportunities which I can't tell you right now," says Ed. "If you say 'Oh, Ed I'm going to enroll in Southwestern University. Tell me exactly what's going to happen to me.' I can't."

But Ed says despite ups and downs over time, liberal arts has just about always delivered on its promise to help students become their best selves if they make that investment.

"Most importantly, you have to trust yourself," Ed suggests. "You have to say 'I have the confidence to realize that I am going to evolve over time' and to be open to that growth and to be open to that change and to be open for that evolution."

Ed says, though, despite the scandals and concerns of the past year, he has seen some bright spots. He points to inreasing support on campuses around the country for students after the admission process once they have arrived. Ed also sees more efforts to bring equity to campus programs such as internships.

Listen to the episode for Ed's take on the health of higher education in 2019. It is also time for a new puzzler. No math is needed for this one; it is pure story and some sleuthing.

This episode was recorded on April 23, 2019.

For all the Higher Ed episodes, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.